Philip Bliss, hymn writer from the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Determined student on a slim budget. Brought into glorious sensations of music and teacher’s opportunity. Evangelist to children and eventually to great City crusades. Never given to a theatrical performance, but reverent and controlled like the sounds of the forest. Died with his wife in a fiery train crash off a trestle. Immediate glory at age 38. (@1876)
The following is taken from “Wholesome Words/Christian Biographies”
Five minutes after the train fell, fire broke out. Fanned by gale like winds, the wooden coaches were ablaze. Mr. Bliss succeeded in extricating himself and crawling to safety through a window. Finding his wife was pinned under the ironwork of the seats, he returned into the car, and bravely remained at her side, trying to extricate her as the flames took their toll. All that remained was a charred mass. No trace of their bodies was ever discovered. For days it was not known who were among the dead, as there had been no passenger list. It was tabulated that out of 160 passengers there were only 14 survivors. Later official sources said 92 died. In most cases, there was nothing to recover. [See Ashtabula Bridge Disaster]
Mr. Bliss’s trunk reached Chicago safely. When it was opened, it was found that the last song that he had written, before his death, began as follows: “I know not what awaits me. God kindly veils my eyes…” The trunk contained many hymn-poems which he had not yet written the music for. One such was My Redeemer, which became world famous, when music was added by James McGranahan. McGranahan, by the way, age 36 at the time of Bliss’s death, was so moved by the tragedy that he decided to give up his miscellaneous works and succeed Bliss as Whittle’s evangelistic singer.
Bliss wrote the music and Spafford penned the lyrics. Life was difficult. God is always good.